Hubble spots distant supernova from early universe

April 05, 2013|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Description: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a supernova that exploded more than 10 billion years ago, the most distant of its kind ever spotted. It was 4 percent farther away and 350 million years older than the previous record-holder, a supernova found three months ago by a team at the U.S. Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Researchers: David O. Jones of the Johns Hopkins University was the lead author on a paper detailing the discovery. He was joined by colleague Steve Rodney. Nobel Prize winner Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Hopkins is leading the Hubble exploration of supernovae.

Stage of research: The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The discovery came at the end of a three-year Hubble program that began in 2010 to survey faraway supernovae. Riess's team found more than 100 supernovae of various types, and eight of the same category as the record-setting supernova.

Implications: The supernova, named Supernova UDS10Wil and nicknamed SN Wilson for President Woodrow Wilson, is a member of a class known as "Type la" supernovae. Such supernovae are useful in measuring the expansion of space because they give off a consistent level of brightness. The finding could help scientists understand how supernovae explode, how quickly heavier elements like iron proliferated in the universe, and how dark energy accelerates the rate of expansion of the universe.

—Scott Dance

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